This article is part of our Best Ball Journal series.
I'm nearly done with 10 BestBall10 drafts now, and I've seen enough at this point to know some of my primary targets and fades. This article will focus on the fades, because my last two articles discussed my QB-RB (here) and WR-TE (here) shares. You can think of those articles as my target list, and the names in this article my avoidance list.
All ADP cited is from March 1 to the present in BestBall10 drafts.
Aaron Jones, RB, GB (10.0 ADP)
Jones is touchdown-dependent and has an extensive injury history going back to his days at UTEP, so I find him one of the year's least appealing first-round options at an ADP of 10th overall. I guess I can understand taking him there if you're committed to selecting a running back in the first round, but Jones is not the quality of a fantasy running back that DeAndre Hopkins, Tyreek Hill, or Davante Adams are as fantasy receivers. Moreover, I've seen people take Jones over running backs like Joe Mixon and Nick Chubb, which I really don't agree with. Jones is definitely one of the league's most elusive runners, but he'll likely need to run for a lot more than 1,084 yards before he accumulates another 16 rushing touchdowns like he did in 2019. Adams caught only five touchdowns on 83 receptions in 2019, but he caught 13 on 111 receptions in 2018. I think it's pretty clear that Adams' touchdown regression is what subsidized Jones' scoring downpour.
Marlon Mack, RB, IND (43.83ADP)
Mack seems skilled as a pure runner – he shows the ability to maintain a strong per-carry rushing average over big workloads – but he does next to nothing as a pass catcher, and he's yet to play 16 games in a single season as he heads into his fourth. Mack would need to do a lot more as a pass catcher for me to take him ahead of players like JuJu Smith-Schuster (39.66 ADP), Allen Robinson (40.52 ADP), Courtland Sutton (41.72 ADP), Keenan Allen (44.86 ADP), or Stefon Diggs (50.03 ADP). I also prefer James Conner (46.38 ADP) and Damien Williams (47.93 ADP) over Mack at running back. If I must draft a Colts running back then it will definitely be Nyheim Hines (203.1 ADP).
DeVante Parker (52.2 ADP)
I was one of the most devout Parker truthers before last year, so it's with a heavy heart that I say that he's well out of my price range by now. Parker was basically free in fantasy drafts last year, and now he's going in the early fifth round after catching 72 of 128 targets for 1,202 yards and nine touchdowns in 2019 (56.3 percent catch rate, 9.4 YPT). I feel like this is a clear case of paying for a player's ceiling. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't going to fundamentally change in 2020, and last year he still averaged just 7.0 yards per pass at a 62.0 completion percentage. If that trend persists in 2020 then Parker will need his target volume to increase to safely meet value, and it's difficult to see the room for growth there when the Dolphins already threw 615 passes in 2019. Plus, Parker never really broke out until Preston Williams tore his ACL in Week 9, after which point Parker posted each of his four 100-yard games and five of his touchdowns. If Williams plays the whole year then we have reason to think Parker's target share could go down, putting a lot of pressure on his ability to maintain an implausibly high YPT with a below average quarterback. In this range of the draft I'd much prefer Stefon Diggs (50.03 ADP), Mark Andrews (53.52 ADP), Calvin Ridley (54.34 ADP), and Robert Woods (58.24 ADP).
DK Metcalf (53.0 ADP)
Like Parker, Metcalf is a player I'm extremely high on in real life but considerably cooler on in fantasy football, at least at his current acquisition price. I don't see the grounds for Metcalf to go ahead of teammate Tyler Lockett (55.62 ADP), let alone about 12 of the next receivers in the ADP. I just got done bashing DeVante Parker at his 52.2 ADP, but there's a wide gulf between Parker and Metcalf in my rankings. For me to buy Metcalf in nearly the fourth round I would need to believe that Seattle will throw the ball substantially more in 2020, and I have no reason to believe that will ever happen so long as that team is run by Pete Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer. Metcalf finished last year with 58 catches for 900 yards and seven touchdowns on 100 targets, drawn over 940 snaps. Where do we see the room for growth here? He's not going to play many more snaps, if any, so he won't juice his target count that way. He's already averaging 9.0 yards per target in an offense where Russell Wilson averaged 8.0 yards per pass. Do we think Wilson will average more yards per attempt in 2020? Do we think Metcalf will outpace Wilson's YPA by two full yards in 2020 instead of one? I'm baffled with this one. Just because Metcalf is young and super talented doesn't mean his numbers will just grow at some sort of conveniently prescribed trajectory until further notice. The Seattle offense as currently structured simply can't accommodate much more function for Metcalf, and his current price assumes significant growth. To break out you first need space!
Deebo Samuel, WR, SF (58.76 ADP)
Samuel is a good player and has a very high floor, but his price is creeping upward as fantasy drafters envision a breakout scenario in 2020. My concern is that the Deebo you saw in 2019 was already close to his best-case scenario. That would be fine in general terms, but I want more upside in a fifth-round pick, and I'm just not convinced it's there. The big red flag I see with Samuel is that his 7.5-yard ADOT (12th percentile) is higher than his 8.5-YAC average (97th percentile). In other words, in order to total 57 catches for 802 yards on 81 targets (71.3 percent catch rate, 9.9 YPT), Samuel needed to average 8.5 yards after the catch for each of those 57 receptions. Unless San Francisco changes the way he's utilized, Samuel will need to produce yardage after the catch at a league-leading pace just to tread water relative to his 2019 production. That's difficult to do two years in a row and it doesn't matter how good you are. We can all agree that D.J. Moore is one of the league's best YAC wideouts, yet his 63rd percentile figure of 4.6 YAC per catch is obviously well short of Samuel's figure. Yet if you take Samuel's 2019 numbers and change his YAC per catch average to 4.6 instead of 8.5, you're left with 579 yards (7.2 YPT). I want to be clear that I much prefer Samuel at his price over Parker and especially over Metcalf, and whereas I don't think Samuel can truly hurt your team, I think those two can. But I still prefer wideout targets like Adam Thielen (60.48 ADP), D.J. Chark (62.86 ADP), Terry McLaurin (63.93 ADP), and Michael Gallup (64.62 ADP).
Noah Fant, TE, DEN (99.0 ADP)
Fant fails the same ADOT-to-YAC standard that Samuel does – 7.9 yards ADOT versus 8.3 YAC per catch – but I'm significantly more concerned yet about Fant. Whereas my concern with Samuel is that he's maybe a bit maxed out at his already high level, in Fant's case I'm worried that he's just not good – at least not yet. Tight ends generally take longer than receivers to develop, and there's evidence that Fant still has a lot of developing to do. For as much as his 40 catches for 562 yards on 65 targets look good at a glance (61.5 percent catch rate, 8.6 YPT), Fant had basically two good games and 14 others that ranged from awful to mediocre. In those two games – against Cleveland and Houston – in both cases the defenses completely melted down and simply failed to tackle Fant after routine catches. In Fant's other 14 games he caught 57.9 percent of his targets at 5.9 yards per target, which is abysmal. Fant will only be 23 in November and has a lot of athletic tools to work with, but the question of his skill development is unsettled in my opinion, and even if he ever becomes a standout starter, I don't think it will be in 2020. Jared Cook was a very similar prospect out of South Carolina, and he didn't make any fantasy owners happy until his 10th season. Fant generally goes for an early ninth-round pick, but I wouldn't consider him until the 11th. I prefer T.J. Hockenson (117.11 ADP) and Blake Jarwin (159.01 ADP), even without adjusting for price.
Diontae Johnson, WR, PIT (105.0 ADP)
Johnson seems like a good player, I just don't see reliable enough evidence that he's better than teammate James Washington (157.2 ADP) to justify Johnson costing more, let alone by a difference of more than four rounds. As much as Johnson's 2019 rookie season was more successful than Washington's in 2018, Washington is still only three months older than Johnson, and in 2019 I'd argue Washington was the better player. Johnson's superior target rate (92 on 667 snaps) is undermined by Washington's superior per-snap air yardage, which at 1.82 (91st percentile) to 1.24 (55th percentile) offsets Washington's lesser target rate at 80 targets on 650 snaps. I also consider Washington the better prospect between the two, both of them third-round picks. Both were productive enough players in college, Washington at Oklahoma State and Johnson at Toledo, but Washington is objectively the more proven athlete between the two. Johnson (5-foot-11, 183 pounds) ran a 4.53-second 40-yard dash with a 33.5-inch vertical, 123-inch broad jump, and 11.54 agility score, while Washington ran a 4.54-second 40-yard dash with a 34.5-inch vertical, 120-inch broad jump, and 11.43 agility score at a full 30 pounds heavier than Johnson. Instead of Johnson in the ninth and Washington in the 14th, I think it'd make more sense if they both went in the 12th.